It’s time for my monthly check in with the Hurricanes’ pipeline. Instead of focusing on one particular topic, I’m going to do my best to touch on all of the storylines, big or small, in the Hurricanes’ pipeline at present. Since we’re getting into the home stretch of the season for a lot of prospects, it’s getting to be playoff time. This is a great time of year because we get to follow the top prospects in their playoff pushes, see some new faces sign with the team and enjoy the successes of our prospects whose seasons will be coming to an end shortly. First, let’s start with the Chicago Wolves.
Sarah Avampato’s weekly piece touched on a lot of what’s going on with the Wolves. The biggest news is that Jack Drury is out with an injury and, according to the Wolves, most of the injured players are week to week. That includes Ryan Suzuki as well, who was just starting to round into form after missing three months due to injury. The Wolves have a number of top players out, which gives players such as Jamieson Rees and Stelio Mattheos more of an opportunity to play up in the lineup and make an impact. It’s not all doom and gloom for the Wolves, though. Joey Keane recently returned to the lineup after missing a handful of games due to injury, and the Hurricanes announced on Monday that Jalen Chatfield was reassigned to the Wolves. The Wolves get their top two defensemen back, which should help minimize the damage.
Pyotr Kochetkov has been a great story for the Wolves early on, however. Last week, I highlighted his first four starts in a post and talked about what he’s doing well and what he needs to work on as he continues to develop. He lost his fifth start, giving him a 4-0-1 record on the season. Kochetkov’s save percentage sits at an impressive .932 through five starts. With Alex Lyon back in Chicago, Jack LaFontaine was the odd man out this past weekend. The Wolves likely wanted to give Lyon a start since he will likely be the Wolves’ starter in the playoffs, but it does make things difficult for LaFontaine moving forward. That’ll be something to keep an eye on as we get closer to the trade deadline.
Hockey East Awards
Scott Morrow was named a first team All-Star in Hockey East and was also named to the All-Rookie team for his performance this season. Morrow has 32 points in 34 games as a freshman and is one of the top offensive defensemen in the entire NCAA, which is impressive for a kid coming out of high school. Morrow is also up for the Rookie of the Year award in Hockey East, although I believe that Northeastern goalie Devon Levi has that award on lock. Domenick Fensore was named a second team all-star in Hockey East after posting 31 points in 35 games. The junior defenseman had 26 assists on the season and was a big part of Boston University’s resurgence in the second half of the season.
Seasons Wrapping Up
Speaking of Fensore, his season came to an end this past weekend with a loss to UConn. Fensore scored to cut the lead in half in the third period, but ultimately, Boston University was eliminated. Fensore is a player to watch in the coming weeks. He has one more year of eligibility in college, but this year, he proved that he was one of the best transition defenders and puck movers in college hockey. He isn’t as dynamic as Morrow, but Fensore works hard and plays an NHL game due to his strong skating and play with the puck. It’s my gut feeling that the Hurricanes will let him play out his senior year with the Terriers, but it wouldn’t shock me if they at least attempt to sign him. The good thing about Fensore having a Sept. 7 birthday is that even if they wait until next March/April to sign him, he will still be 21 and eligible to sign for three years rather than two years. Cade Webber’s season also ended with BU’s loss to UConn. Webber is great in his own end but I still wish that I could see more from him in transition and in the offensive zone. He’s a smart player, but I feel that his game is fairly one-dimensional at this point in time.
Kevin Wall’s season ended this past weekend as well. Penn State was an up and down team all season long and their season ended against Minnesota. Wall set career highs in goals, assists and points with 16, 13 and 29, respectively. I would imagine that Wall finishes his collegiate career with Penn State before the Hurricanes try to sign him, which means that he has one more year to go. His junior year was full of good moments, especially when you consider his production on a team not known for its offensive firepower, but there were still some inconsistencies in his defensive game that need to be worked out. I like Wall as a player and think that his speed and goal scoring could be utilized in the NHL, but it’ll take some development.
Aidan Hreschuk’s freshman year came to a close with Boston College’s loss to Northeastern. I felt that Hreschuk struggled early on in the year but got better as the season went along, eventually cementing his role on the second pairing for the Eagles. Hreschuk’s offensive numbers don’t pop, but I like his work ethic and physical play. I feel that his biggest area of growth this year was in the defensive zone. I saw Hreschuk make fewer mistakes and position himself in shooting and passing lanes, limiting offensive chances. His pesky style of play also lead to some drawn penalties, which is nice to see. I’m still not sure of Hreschuk’s potential, but I like the pick more now that I’ve watched him play a bit.
Next week, we’ll see Aleksi Heimisalmi’s, Anttoni Honka’s nd Lenni Killinen’s seasons end. Assat (Killinen, Heimosalmi) and JYP (Honka) are both firmly out of a playoff spot in Finland and both finish their seasons on Tuesday. Heimosalmi is currently under contract with the Hurricanes, so the team could loan him to Chicago for some extra development if they so choose. Honka’s contract with JYP is up, and this is the last year he’ll be eligible to sign a three year deal instead of a two year deal. I could see the Hurricanes signing Honka soon, especially since he has proven to be a top scorer at the Liiga level. He leads the team with 37 points and is tied for the lead in league scoring for defensemen with Vili Saarijarvi. Lenni Killinen isn’t likely to be signed by the Hurricanes, in my opinion. He hasn’t developed much over the course of four seasons, is injury prone and hasn’t made much of an impact at the Liiga level.
Uncertainty Surrounding Russian Prospects
With everything going on with the war in Ukraine, fans of NHL teams might be wondering how their team can manage to get their Russian prospects over to North America. It’s complicated, that’s for sure. From my understanding, the KHL will honor all loans, meaning that the Hurricanes can recall Vasiliy Ponomaryov once his season ends. It gets complicated when it comes to signing KHL players, however. From my understanding of Frank Seravalli’s reporting, teams will have to provide their most recent records of a KHL player’s contract and will have to go through a few more hoops in order to sign players. The Hurricanes currently have two prospects that, to the best of my knowledge, are on expiring KHL deals. Those players are Nikita Guslistov and Alexander Pashin.
Other News and Notes
- Ronan Seeley recorded his 100th WHL point with an assist the other night
- Tuukka Tieksola has been out with an injury for a few weeks and should be close to returning to Karpat’s lineup.
- Justin Robidas was named the QMJHL’s Player of the Week with a four point week.
- Massimo Rizzo was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team